In a heated first debate, incumbent Rep. Erik Paulsen squared off against his Democratic challenger Dean Phillips in their battle for Minnesota’s Third Congressional District.
Although Paulsen has safely held the seat since 2009, Minnesota’s Democractic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party is hopeful that their candidate can pull off an upset, since the district went to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Election.
At one particular tense moment of Tuesday’s debate, Phillips was cornered into revealing that he would support gubernatorial candidate Rep. Tim Walz’s plan to declare Minnesota a sanctuary state, but only after insisting that he’s “in favor of law enforcement.”
“I believe we need comprehensive immigration reform because we need more thoughtful laws and regulations that are decent, that take into account all the dynamics and the context in which they exist. And we need to hold people accountable in all of our laws and regulations,” Phillips responded to the question, saying he believes “laws in this country should be followed.”
Phillips’ answer prompted the moderator to repeat his question, to which the DFL-backed candidate admitted that he would offer “short term” support of a sanctuary state option.
“I believe humanity transcends nations,” he continued. “Yes, humans come first in my estimation, and I think short term I would do so because I think it is the human thing to do and that’s the American thing to do.”
While claiming that he hopes to extend President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Phillips reiterated that he “is not in favor of breaking laws.”
“We need laws in this nation, but we need to change the law to accommodate the truths that exist in this country,” he added.
Paulsen said he would not support efforts to declare Minnesota a sanctuary state, though did say he will continue to “work across the aisle to get immigration reform.”
“I am not in favor of sanctuary cities. I’m not in favor of sanctuary states. We should be following the laws that we have. And most importantly, when you have ICE on the border, they are intercepting fentanyl,” he responded, attributing drug problems and human trafficking to illegal immigration.
Shortly after Tuesday’s debate, Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson tweeted that he “will not allow Minnesota to become a sanctuary state.” He also said he would petition President Trump to “halt the program in our state—which has been very generous taking in refugees.”